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OSHA Slams Contractor in Near-Collapse

Thursday, May 8, 2014

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A contractor’s failure to brace an empty shell of a building left it a death trap on the brink of collapse on untrained workers, federal authorities have determined.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management LLC, with two willful and 12 serious violations after an inspection found the unsupported structure on the verge of collapse as it was being demolished in Bridgeport, CT, in November.

Fines against the company total $196,000.

810 Boston Ave. 810 Boston Ave.
centralcthomebuyers via youtube

OSHA said the building had no support and workers were completely unprotected and untrained in demolition and lead hazards.

Neither Mendoza nor his company could be reached for comment Wednesday (May 7).

Deadly Precedent

OSHA said Mendoza's workers "were exposed to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards due to their employer's failure to brace the building's walls and adhere to basic, legally required safeguards." The crews were demolishing and rehabbing the three-story, 24-unit apartment building.

"This employer's disregard of basic demolition safety fundamentals is unacceptable," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

The potential deadly consequences of such a demolition were evident in last summer's building collapse in Philadelphia, which killed six people and injured 14, said Michaels. One survivor lost both legs in that disaster.

Philadelphia building collapse
@RonniePhilly / Twitter

OSHA said the building condition and demolition work could have led to another disastrous building collapse like the one that killed six people and injured 13 last summer in Philadelphia.

"While no collapse occurred in Bridgeport, the hazard was real, present and entirely avoidable," said Michaels.

No Bracing, No Fall Protection

Mendoza's workers had removed the flooring from the second and third floor, leaving "an empty, unsupported shell that was vulnerable to collapse," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport.

"Employees at this job site were also exposed to falls of up to 36 feet from unguarded wall openings and to health hazards from inadequate measures to protect them from exposure to lead at the worksite.

"Worker safety and health were blatantly ignored."

Health Violations

Serious health violations allege:

801 Boston Ave.
Google Maps

Untrained workers removed interior floors and left multistory walls of the brick shell unsupported.

  • Lack of respirators, appropriate work clothing, and personal protective equipment for employees performing demolition, renovation and cleanup of lead-containing and other hazardous materials;
  • Lack of information, training and safety data sheets for kerosene, acetylene, adhesive, oxygen and other hazardous chemicals being used;
  • Open containers of oil, flammable and hazardous wastes;
  • Shoveling and dry sweeping, rather than vacuuming, of lead-containing materials;
  • Lack of testing for exposure to lead-containing paint and other materials; and
  • Lack of handwashing facilities and changing areas.

Safety Violations

Willful and serious safety violations, which comprise the majority of the fine, allege:

  • Lack of fall protection near second- and third-story chutes, windows and exterior walls (a willful violation with a $70,000 fine);
  • Unbraced, stand-alone masonry walls more than one story tall (willful violation, $70,000 fine);
  • Lack of training in demolition and structural bracing;
  • Lack of training in fall protection;
  • Lack of emergency exits;
  • Inappropriate storage of flammable chemicals and lack of a fire protection plan and equipment;
  • Electrical violations; and
  • Lack of guardrails and handrails on open stairways.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to remedy or contest the findings.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Commercial Construction; Contractors; Demolition; Fatalities; Health and safety; Lead; OSHA; Residential Construction; Respirators; Worker training

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